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Holland America prepares to set sail for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began

Holland America is hoping to salvage what remains of the 2021 cruise season with ten trips to Alaska. Passengers will not be required to wear masks on board.

SEATTLE — The Seattle-based Holland America Line is not requiring passengers to wear masks while onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam when it departs for Alaska on Saturday.

The ship will be the second cruise ship to set sail in what remains of the salvaged 2021 Seattle to Alaska cruise season. The 2020 season was canceled in its entirety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re starting tomorrow at 65% capacity, then we will quickly ramp up to 80 and then to 95%,” said Captain Jeroen Van Donselaar.

The ship has already been in local waters for two weeks prepping for what is expected to be ten cruises to Alaska and a 21-day cruise from Seattle to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, setting sail on October 2. 

Holland America says the entire crew has been vaccinated, and more than 95% of the passengers as well. Crew members will wear masks during the trip. 

“We’re operating at a heard immunity type-level… we’re creating a bit of a bubble,” said Holland America's President Gus Antorcha.  

Onboard, nothing will be self-serve, everything including a coffee refill will be handed to passengers by a crew member. Passengers are encouraged to use the company’s Navigator app on their smartphones to do things like order food, creating as much of a contactless environment as possible. Sanitation is stepped up, and then there’s what’s happening inside the ship’s ventilation system. 

“The HVAC system has enhanced filtration, there’s HEPA filtration in the medical unit,” Antorcha said. “We’ve added UV lighting to our HVAC system, there are enhanced sanitation protocols on board. There’s testing capability within the medical center, so there are a number of actions we’ve taken to provide that security.” UV stands for Ultra Violet light, which is used to kill germs.

The Nieuw Amsterdam will set sail on Saturday, followed by the Majestic Princess on Sunday, both vessels are owned by the Holland America Group which in turn is owned by Cruise giant Carnival Corp.

The return to Alaska was considered important enough that Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald flew in from Miami to celebrate the upcoming departures.

On Monday, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas left for Alaska at 50% capacity, but passengers were required to wear masks in common areas inside the ship, except while eating or drinking. Royal Caribbean is a completely separate company. All the cruise lines say their procedures are approved by the CDC.